Tag Archives: sequel

Halloween II (2009)

This right here is a difficult review. Because I’ve just reviewed a movie that, however barely serviceable its plot, understands the way horror sequels work. Because John Carpenter’s Halloween II is the best horror sequel ever made. Because I enjoyed both Rob Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s original Halloween and his other movies that I’ve seen. Because it will pretty much require a non-stop spoiler parade to really explain myself. But mostly because, despite a deep inner craving to love Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, I kind of hated it. So, that’s the short version review. The longer one[1] includes, as stated, dangerously high spoiler levels.

[1] Everything below this footnote, basically

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The Final Destination

MV5BOTMwMTMzNDM1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjMyNjk3Mg@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_I’ve said it many times before, but it has been true for as long as I’ve known about it. It appears to have been true since Joe Bob Briggs first said it in the early ’80s: if you want to make a good sequel to a horror movie, look at the movie you made in the first place and make your sequel identical to that. As such, I will not have very much to say about The Final Destination. Because it had a dude who has, for no apparent reason, visions of an upcoming tragedy and accidentally helps several people escape said tragedy.[1] After which, Death’s plan has been thwarted, and thusly these several “lucky” near-victims start to die in unlikely ways to bring things back on track, while vision-dude continues to have new visions and tries to prevent all their deaths and his own, despite the inevitability.[1]

I mean, let’s be clear. There is no point to this movie except to see people die in gruesomely inexplicable ways. But you have to give some credit to whoever came up with a concept that allowed them to film death after grisly death while avoiding all semblance of a plot, and then has gone on to do it three more times.

Also, it’s in 3D if you like that sort of thing.

[1] Matching the original film as well as both previous sequels? Check.[2]
[2] I believe that the vision-dude in Final Destination 2 may well have been a chick.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot

Three years ago and more, I played the original Condemned game. Creepy homeless people, a serial killer, crime scene investigations… fun, scary times! So, anyway, turns out there’s a sequel. Condemned 2 is every bit as creepy, with all the angry homeless people and new bonus extra-creepy people who have bizarre mouth and body-modifications. Not to mention hallucinatory slime people and evil animated dolls and all manner of bad times. The story part of the game is… well, pretty silly? See, the same characters from the previous game are back: Agent Ethan Thomas has turned to the bottle after his successful crusade to take down Serial Killer X resulted in no body, no proof, and a long-term suspension. His lab contact Rosa is doing fine, but the wealthy Malcolm Van Horn is being hunted by… a secret society. That has sinister plans for Agent Thomas.

On the one hand, yay for explaining all the crazy homeless people, probably better than the first game did. On the other hand, changing from a serial killer series to a conspiracy series without so much as a how-do-you-do is just a bizarre choice. One that will work better, I think, if there’s no third game. Really, the story thing isn’t a complaint per se. The game was scary and that’s what I was looking for. My complaint, if one is needed, is that it was entirely too short. Well, and there was maybe not quite enough studying crimes while nervously watching over a shoulder for a well-wielded pipe wrench. …yeah. Okay. Scary enough or not, it just wasn’t nearly as good as the last one. Oh, well.

Grand Theft Auto IV

I’ve played but not reviewed previous Grand Theft Auto games. Most of the modern ones pre-date my reviews, of course, but then San Andreas was never finished by me. There was this thing with impossible-to-fly biplanes that I finally gave up on, since there were only going to be more planes in the future, and the training aspect had overtaken the fun. That said, I have reliably enjoyed all of them, and each more than the last. Grand Theft Auto IV is likely the best in the series; it has kept each of the improvements developed across the previous three games while quickly ejecting the overly bloated chaff that came with San Andreas. The result is a streamlined and mostly trouble-free game experience. Mission-based play and a large world guarantee that there are times when a mission replay will be exasperating, but at least for me, this problem was rare. The sandbox design is even improved, with ever more reasons to wander the streets for the hell of it. Plus, y’know, it is about as pretty as the generation gets.

All of which to say: I am impressed with the game design and playability, and that’s good. Which leaves storyline. On one hand, it’s the same as previous Grand Theft Auto games. You wander the city as it gets gradually opened up to you, making deals with bad people and doing worse things in order to get money. You’re pretty much a bad guy, or at best amoral in pursuit of your own goals. But on the other hand… Nico Bellic is an interesting, conflicted character who is drawn in by events beyond his control at least as often as he makes bad choices. And there are a handful of secondary characters (if not more!) with depth that nearly matches Nico’s. It is possible to disapprove of this game’s morality and not need to know more than that to make your decision. But I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to play the game for any duration[1] and not get emotionally invested in more than one of the characters. The game is every bit as story-deep as Mass Effect, and well worth almost any gamer’s time.

[1] For my part, I played it over the course of 18 months. I almost never come back to games once I’ve played stuff in between or let more than a few weeks pass.

Ultimate X-Men: Magnetic North

Historically, I’ve been down on the Ultimate X-Men titles as compared to the other ongoing series. I know there was a point, several books ago, when I changed that opinion. Magnetic North marks another such shift, as this is simply one of the best Marvel Ultimate titles I’ve read, period. Almost every minor and major event in the past several books is pulled together into one web of intrigue, surrounding the escape of Magneto. It is both too complex and too good a story to get into in more detail than that, and in all honesty, I think the title and the cover[1] revealed as much as I already have anyway. It has a cinematic plot, with almost as many story and character twists as there are pages to turn. I just cannot stop being excited over these books!, and more the further into them I get.

[1] at least, the cover of my copy, which does not match the one Amazon shows.

Ultimate Secret

Ultimate Secret continues the Ultimate Galactus trilogy in much the same fashion as the opening volume. That is, it tells a reasonably good story whose main flaw is feeling entirely too short. I mean, most of the Ultimate books have felt like discrete storylines in the lives of our heroes. The Galactus books, on the other hand, have felt very much like part of an (extremely incomplete) ongoing story. It is not particularly a flaw, except that it makes it hard to feel much excitement for the review; it’s as though I’m reviewing thirds of a book, instead of three books.

Another way it matches the first volume is that it uses the Galactus story to talk about other characters entirely that had not yet been drafted into the Ultimate universe.[1] In this case, the fight is against the alien Kree who are sabotaging mankind’s space program, in the hopes that when Gah Lak Tus arrives, the planet will have no survivors. The story was decent, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Again. I’m really relieved this is only a trilogy, as I’m not sure I could take much more pushing back the payoff.

Except for the lack of character continuity, what this has most reminded me of is the old G.I. Joe event weeks when they’d present a five-part series in which Cobra and G.I. Joe were crossing the world in search of parts for a doomsday machine, and inevitably Cobra would manage to get all the parts, fire up the machine, and then lose anyway. The continuity meant that each episode had a series payoff feel, unlike these books, but there’s still definitely a race across the world in search of clues feel. (Does anyone but me remember those episodes fondly? I mean, clearly there’s a movie studio that hopes so.)

[1] Captain Marvel? Really?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m genuinely unsure what to make of the 6th Harry Potter movie. It took its time and worked hard to include what was necessary, unlike some of the previous films. Lots of backstory was ditched, but it kept the important bits. And they did a great job with the character interactions. Every cylinder fired really well[1], honestly, except for the parts that dealt with the central storyline and mystery. The Half-Blood Prince’s identity scarcely registered as a mystery in the first place, despite so many revealed reasons as to why it might be troubling. Voldemort’s secret was mostly an afterthought, though I suppose it being the main focus of two more movies will make up for that. And the climatic scene felt, well, rushed.

But what I can’t decide is how it would have looked to a newcomer. Were the scenes unsatisfying because the script and the direction weren’t quite up to it? Or because I was able to choose the pacing in the book, and the movie simply didn’t live up to my preferences? You’ll have to ask someone who came at these from a different direction, I guess, because I’ve got nothing to go by here, except what I’ve already said. On the bright side, it was pretty good in itself, just not as satisfying as I had hoped. Alan Rickman, as usual, is the tops. Oh, and speaking of bright sides, I think I recommend an afternoon or evening viewing. It’s a very dark film, visually, and emerging into the bright of summer would be… disorienting, at best.

[1] Okay, Daniel Radcliffe is simply not keeping up with the emerging talent of his co-stars. Pity.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Remember what happened in Transformers? Me neither, so I’ll join you in reading that review before I proceed. Yeah, right, okay, no new giant robots, missing Allspark, etc. Anyway, I know they had a happy ending in which the bad guy was vanquished and I guess the Allspark bit it, so no more giant robots? Except: now there’s a new bad guy that’s even badder and more important than Megatron, except we’ve never heard of him before. Which, okay, fine. And the giant robots have been on Earth for 17,000 years instead of showing up when their Allspark crash-landed by random chance. Which seems maybe less plausible?[1] And they have a new plan for making giant robots, although it technically involves the death of every living thing on the planet. Lucky it’s the giant robots having this debate; if it was humans who needed to destroy Cybertron to perpetuate our species, the giant robots would all be toast before you could finish Clapping Off.

Still, Transformers 2 was a pretty good movie. Megan Fox remains hot and occasionally runs in slow motion. There were a lot more tiny robots, the same amount of giant robots[2], a few distressingly racistly-typed robots[3] to detract from that, and at least two ancient robots. The military dudes were acceptably military, the conspiracy dude was John Turturro, and he’s generally good, right? And Shia LeBeouf was that young guy that gets lots of big roles for teenagers in movies these days; whether that is deserved, I choose not to speculate.[4] Plus, another cosmic-scale plot. So, yeah. Michael Bay has done quite well, here, putting together a solid, entertaining, explosions-filled movie filled with only a few missteps. Ninety minutes’ worth of adrenaline, entertainment and such, and through the art of movie magic, skillful casting, and blindingly-talented script oversight, he was able to cram that ninety minutes of entertaining film, with I’m sure no small amount of effort, down into a mere two and half hours of screen time.

Oops. Still, the good movie is in there, if you want to dig for it and can let your lizard brain be entertained by explosions, overt racism, and Megan Fox in the meantime.

[1] I grant the possibility that I missed some explanation for this during the first reel. But I’m pretty sure not.
[2] Though they look distressingly similar in robot form
[3] I could have gotten past the accents and attitudes with little more than an eye roll, but buckteeth, and one of them gold? You’ve got to be shitting me. I mean, seriously.
[4] Clearly, starring opposite Megan Fox is not deserved, though. I mean, it’s possible she’s going to be the better actor of the two of them in another year or so, which just indicates what I’m trying to say here.

Saw II

Having a father in the hospital makes for a dramatic slowdown in consumption. Only one movie in the past few weeks, and I do have at least a couple I wanna see right now. Only one book lately too, but part of that is my choice to read a doorstop novel so as not to have to do any other reviews for a little while. (Is it cheating to acknowledge stuff like that? Well, whatever.) But, lots of Harry Potter to while away my dad’s time, and let me tell you: that lady uses really a freaking lot of adverbs. Which is pleasant, as they’re very much like script directions, and I can be sure I’m getting the voices down solid. But still, I’d never noticed just how frequent it was, reading them quietly to myself. Just saying.

However, I was actually talking about movies, this time. I saw II…. um, no, that’s not right. Let’s try it again. Um. I went to see Saw II. But I didn’t see Saw, so how can you claim you did too? Look. Seriously. Shut up.

It makes me want to see Saw (I mean it. Shut up.) even more than I already wanted, even though through a probably inevitable turn of events, I know how Saw ends already from this current film. Leaving that aside… yeah, it’s pretty good. There are twists, as all good horror movies should have. Also, violence and brutality. The conceit (I think of both movies) is pretty simple. A homicidal sociopath (or possibly an ethically unfettered clinical psychologist) puts people in deadly situations but with all of the tools necessary to escape from them, and then watches to see what they’ll do. This one has two subplots, seven people (or eight? who can remember?) in a trapped house from the mold above, and meanwhile a cop whose son is in the first subplot has captured and is interrogating the maniac, in the hopes of rescuing everyone.

The main thing I took away from this is what a great RPG subplot #1 would be. You set the house, and the clues, and assign the characters to people, and then see if they’re able to save themselves before the deadly gas kills them all. Far better RPG than movie, and it was much better than the average slasher movie, which had very nearly fallen by the wayside anyhow. So, thanks for the cool idea which I may use someday, unnamed Hollywood scriptwriter(s), and also thanks for revitalizing stuff that was just lame direct-to-video anymore. I now have a new most anticipated movie to look forward to (well, not counting if Snakes on a Plane materializes), 2006’s Slither, starring Sherriff Mal Reynolds.

Revenge of the Sith

I heard that the novelization of Revenge of the Sith fills in a lot of empty spaces left by the already high (if contrary to form) quality of the movie. There’s no question that Anakin seemed to fall easily, despite that I could get a handle on what wheels in his head were spinning. Plus, I could never quite get a handle on the very end, with Palpatine’s lie and Vader’s acquiescense, post- Force tantrum. And the part where I think Sidious was Plagueis’ apprentice who learned the secret of influencing midichlorians to maintain or create life, and how it indicated that he might have been the architect of Anakin’s conception in the first place. (Sadly, that last bit remains a mystery.)

So, the book. Found it on the cheap a few months ago, read it this week, somewhat faster than intended, but these things happen. At every point, Stover fills in crucial gaps in dialogue, stuff that I remember wishing the movie had been padded with in its original form, lines that would have made the movie maybe ten minutes longer all told while providing just the right depth to take away the choppiness that was the only real flaw. Even better, he has a gift for jumping into each character’s head and taking a mental snapshot for the reader. The best sections of the book begin and end with ‘This is how it feel to be Anakin Skywalker, right now.’

To sum up: as much as I was happy with Lucas for finally recapturing the spirit of Star Wars completely, it is my sad duty to report that the many people who have created bits and pieces of his universe since the 1990s are still, on the whole, more to be trusted with the creation than he is himself. But so be it. At least someone is doing this stuff.